Applied Industrial Optics 2017 (AIO) - Chair Dr. Arlene Smith shares her thoughts on the meeting.

By Sogol Borjian, Ph.D

Tell us a little about yourself. What is your background and how did you arrive at your current role? 
My PhD is in Physics - specifically modeling partially coherent light sources used in lithography. When I graduated from my PhD I worked in a Biomedical Engineering Postdoc position developing miniature endoscopes for early cancer detection. About 18 months ago, I moved to industry to work as an engineer and program manager at Avo Photonics. Avo is a custom design and contract manufacturing company located just north of Philadelphia.
What is AIO conference and how was it first formed? 
At Applied Industrial Optics (AIO), as the name suggests, the focus is on technologies that have been or have potential to be commercialized. This means industry experts with experience in overcoming the challenges of deploying and commercializing new technology meet research groups striving to get their technology out of the lab. In addition to traditional presentations, AIO hosts panel sessions aimed at fostering dialog and new collaboration amongst attendees. 
AIO was conceived by a small group of like-minded industry professionals who saw the need for a conference focusing on applied optics and emerging technologies. The first conference was held in 2010, and AIO has been successfully highlighting the commercialization of optical technologies ever since. Attendees learn both about the technologies themselves and the roadmaps employed in their journey to industrial production.
How did you first get involved in AIO? Why have you stuck around? 
I first became involved in AIO as a volunteer to the committee through OSA’s Young Professional Program. From the beginning I made a point of assisting the AIO Chairs wherever I could, gaining a wealth of experience in the complex world of conference organization at every turn. I did not actually attend the first year; however, as I was relocating from Ireland to Michigan to pursue my postdoc, but I did make it to AIO in Seattle in 2014. Immediately I could see how different AIO is from other larger meetings.
What do you think makes AIO meeting a remarkable meeting? 
The program is mostly invited talks, which enables the Committee to focus on enabling leaders in the field to share their knowledge. The Committee members display great dedication in working to make the meeting the best it can be, year after year. Typically invited speakers subsequently become committee members, ensuring that each iteration of AIO incorporates fresh ideas and approaches.
What is your favorite type of AIO Talk/Session?
I feel I would be remiss to over-emphasize one talk, as I have found myself learning a lot at every session I have attended! However, I do particularly enjoy the panel sessions, whose format encourages everyone in the room to really get engaged with the topic. Not only do the panel members go back-and-forth with each other, but the attendees also freely contribute their questions and opinions. This type of open dialogue is the best way to forge lasting connections with your peers, in my experience.
How could AIO be helpful for the young professionals career wise?
I can honestly say I am currently happily employed by Avo Photonics as a direct result of AIO. In fact, my boss is on the AIO Committee! The connection I made that led to my opportunity at Avo exemplifies how the face-to-face nature of the conference meetings, and the aforementioned panel sessions, allow you to get to know people and grow your professional network in a truly meaningful way.


Posted: 28 March 2017 by Sogol Borjian, Ph.D | with 0 comments

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